2020 BMW Z4 essentials: What traffic?
The open-air Z4 makes short work of the red line on your map app
What is it: The BMW Z4 is the continuation of the company’s semi-long line of two-seat drop-tops. This one, though, was co-developed with Toyota when the Japanese company made the Supra. It comes in two grades: sDrive30i with 254 hp and sDrive M40i with 382 hp. The sDrive portion of the name means rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drivers get the xDrive moniker.
Base Price: $64,695 As-Tested Price: $70,245
Highlights: The Z4 premiered at the 2019 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It grew in every dimension over the last model, 3.3 inches in length, 2.9 inches in width and it’s a half-inch taller. It also has a wider track and 50/50 weight distribution. This particular car gets the inline turbocharged six delivering 369 lb-ft of torque along with that 382 hp. No manual is available, just an eight-speed automatic.
Our Opinion: I drove the Toyota Supra on its launch, but this is the first time I’ve driven the joint-engineered Z4. It’s great — it makes me want to drive the Supra here in Detroit to get an honest comparison. My baseline is that I like the Supra better because it’s a hardtop, but the extra 48 hp is hard to pass up.
The BMW Z4 is great in traffic, especially with the top down. Late September here in Michigan has been unseasonably, well, appropriately warm as of late, which gave me two days and a decent amount of miles with the top down. The Z4 will take almost anyone from stoplight to stoplight. If you need to get a lane over, this will quickly do it without too much drama. It doesn’t really roar or scream or intimidate. On the expressway, just aim toward a gap and gas it. The turbo I6 will get you from 60 mph to 80 in a blink.
The Z4 sounds better in sport and sport plus mode with little crackles from the exhaust. I left it there most of my time with the car. The fully automatic eight-speed was great with good reaction to the paddles. I probably would have guessed it was a dual-clutch. The brakes are sensitive with a short stroke — always better to overdo the brakes than underdo (is that a word?) them. They were a little weird when taking my foot off, like when I’m trying to creep along before a light turns green. It just wasn’t very smooth. No matter, though, this roadster is at home when hauling ass.
Say what you want about BMWs losing their edge or soul or whatever, but the Z4 handles and feels better than 85 percent of the cars on the road. And I would put most Bimmers up there, too, even the silly-looking X4s and X6s. I wouldn’t buy one of those, but they’re still fun to drive.
The thick steering wheel has both the right effort and ratio to dive through holes in traffic or put a wheel right at the edge of the yellow turn lane when legally apexing a left turn. Obviously visibility is great, except looking through the rearview mirror where the wind blocker netting blurs the traffic behind.
The Z4’s suspension, too, is nice and tight without beating you up. BMW learned from its last-gen of M3, M4 and M5 and softened the blows just enough to fix the harshness without killing the handling.
The seats are tight, like I like them, and though everything is within reach, there are some problems. One, with the top down on a sunny day, I couldn’t see anything on the infotainment screen. There’s a light matte finish on it, probably to help eliminate that, but at 5 p.m. leaving work at this time of year, it may as well be blank. Also, I love the Z4’s Bluetooth/Apple CarPlay combo and I think BMW is the only one doing it at the moment. You just connect it once, then every time you get in, CarPlay fires up and you’re ready to go. Our Z4 also had wireless charging, which means even though it’s not plugged in, you get all the benefits of attaching it. Unfortunately, the CarPlay, or maybe Bluetooth, kept being weird and disconnecting and not playing. This is actually the second BMW this happened in. Once this setup is perfected, please don’t change it, BMW.
Overall, the 2020 Z4 is great fun, and I totally get the convertible love, even if it’s not for me. Getting on the highway at speed is almost thrilling. Right now, I’d like the Supra with 50 more hp. If BMW ever puts a hardtop on this thing, then it’ll be my first choice. As for the rest of the competition, there’s the Audi TTRS and the Mercedes SLC with almost exactly the same outputs. I’d take this over the Benz for sure; the TTRS with its turbocharged inline-five would be a tougher choice. The Supra still looks the coolest, though.
–Jake Lingeman, road test editor
BMW Z4 Specifications
Base Price: $64,695
As-Tested Price: $70,245
Drivetrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged I6, eight-speed automatic, RWD
Output: 382 hp @ 5,000 rpm; 369 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,457 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 24/31/26 mpg
Pros: Wooshy speed, good exhaust sound, near perfect steering
Cons: No space for child, or child seat, even in the trunk; no manual option
Options: Misano Blue Metallic ($550), Driving Assistance Package ($500), Premium Package ($1,400), Executive Package ($2,500), 19” DBL-spoke cerium grey 800M ($600), Destination Charge ($995)